South Africa: Covid-19 - You Have Been Warned - Spread Fake News, and You Could Go to Jail

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opinion

The public must be advised to simply stay away from publishing, forwarding or creating fake news and misinformation about the novel coronavirus - and that includes being careful of reckless jokes disseminated within their social groups.

In 2017, Time magazine published a special edition, "The World Is Not Ready for the Next Pandemic" which addressed the extent to which nations had been preparing for the next pandemic or epidemic. In June 2019 Bruce Schneier wrote in the New York Times that the next pandemic will be fought on two fronts: "The first is the one you immediately think about understanding the disease, researching a cure and inoculating the population. The second is new, and one you might not have thought much about: fighting the deluge of rumours, misinformation and flat-out lies that will appear on the internet" (my emphasis).

In the current Covid-19 pandemic, the world was caught on both fronts. Third World countries will eventually be hard hit. Viral misinformation and fake news pose the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa. If not attended to, fake news and misinformation will lead to tens of thousands of deaths. A solid strategy regarding the socio-political and...

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